As the title puts it, the
present study seeks to analyse the political orientations or leanings of two leading Indian English dailies, ‘The
Times of India’ and ‘The Hindu’, in terms of circulation, The study looks into how these two dailies exhibit their political
orientations/leanings while reporting on Parliament and its business..
More precisely, the present research also aims to study how Parliament, the
highest law-making authority of the country, politicians, parties and policies
were framed during the Monsoon Session held from 17 July 2017 to 11 August
Media plays an important
role in a democratic setup, though the nature and scope of its role has always
been debated. In a country like India, which is the world’s largest democracy
with a strong presence and evolution of both traditional and the new media, the
watchdog function of the media plays an important role in strengthening
democracy. The more people get educated and informed, the strength and substance
of the media increase. Media plays an important role in the dissemination of
information and acts as a key information resource for the common folk.
Democracy does not and cannot survive without
discourse and discourse effectively takes place mainly through journalism.
Parliaments have the ‘right to be reported’ because people have the right and
the urge to know what is happening in Parliament and government.
press helps people and politicians grasp and understand social, economic,
political and cultural issues of the country. Press is sometimes controlled by
the governments/state. However, often, the press has the power to control and
keep a check on the government(s). The press’s responsibility is to hold the
powers that be to account and assess, critique and even expose politicians,
political parties and policies to make the society we live in a better place.
One of the chief authors
of the American Declaration of Independence, who also served as the third
President of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, wrote in a letter
to the Edward Carrington, an American statesmen that “Were it left to me to
decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers
without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter” (as quoted
in Divan, 2006, p.1). This is the strength and power of the press. British
politician, historian and jurist James Bryce once said that the press was a
“watch dog whose bark must be tolerated, even when the person who approaches
has no bad intentU1 .”
the right and left wings of the political spectrum recognise politics and
political news as most important facets of news. This is because politicians
are the law makers and rule us. Hence most of the news output is directly or
indirectly related to politics. This way, press plays what is famously termed
as the watch dog role in monitoring and keeping check of the conduct of the
government, and thereby politicians and government officials.
Does the media have a
bigger role to play in a democratic set-up like India than just disseminating
information and providing news and views and entertaining people?
There are two elements as
far as reporting Parliament is concerned. One is the right of the citizens to
be informed, and the other is the right to freedom of speech and expression
which is exercised by the media. These two go hand in hand for the greater
common good of all.
Parliament and parliamentarians
always expect the media to be objective, fair, balanced and unbiased while
reporting on Parliament or while writing about it. Parliament also has the
right and the privilege to impose restrictions on the media on matters that
might seem to be as misinterpretation. This provision is discussed in the
latter part of the introduction.
However the question is,
can the media be completely objective and unbiased while not only reporting or
writing about Parliament, but in general. Is it not too ideal and too
impractical to expect?
question of the press being objective and factual is debatable. Can the press
be objective and should the press be objective is also the question that demands
answer. The press being free from politics is impossible, but can it be free
from political orientations or leanings? Can it be objective and unbiased as
far as politics of the press as an institution or organisation is considered
and concerned ?
the one hand, being factual is greatly demanded of the media. On the other
hand, the question is what do those so-called facts mean?. Time and again, it
has been decisively proved that media, against facts, tends to be politically oriented.
Media not only is oriented politically to a certain ideology, it sets an agenda
to the readers as well.
Bernard Cohen famously pointed out in his book The Press and Foreign Policy (1963):
press is significantly more than a purveyor of information and opinion… It the
press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think,
but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about. And
it follows from this that the world looks different to different people,
depending not only on their personal interests, but also on the map that is
drawn for them by writers, editors, and publishers of the papers they read.
The question is: How does press set an agenda
for its readers on what to think about and then, further, on how to think about
what they have been asked to think about.
is evident that the
right and left wings U2 of
the political spectrum have dominated not only the orientations of the press
but the thinking and understanding of of readers on various issues. The press not
only collects facts for us but it puts it in a certain way.
(2003), proves in his paper that throughout history, the press has been politically
oriented and demonstrates what he calls ‘media bias’ towards a certain
political ideology. Media bias has always existed and will always exist. Being
completely objective is a myth and is also a dangerous myth. .
Showmaker & Reese (1996, p. 21.) point out in their paper,”News is a
socially created product, not a reflection of an objective reality” (as cited
in Majid & Ramaprasad, 1998, p.132.).
content and structure of political news has been a subject of intense study by
academicians, media scholars and political scientists (see, for example, Niven,
2009; McCombs & Ghanem, 2001; Weaver, 2007; Guzman, 2016, etc.)
It is very necessary to
be aware of the rights and freedom of the media hereafter, the word media will be
substituted with the word press for the purpose of the study whenever
necessary U3 in
the country, political background, Parliamentary business, relationship between
media and Parliament, privileges enjoyed by the press in Parliament and finally
the privileges of the parliamentarians as we move into the study.
overview of the Parliament of India:
Parliament of India
occupies a very important position in the constitutional set-up of the country.
It represents 1.25 billion people of this country and it is the place from
where we are ruled. It is the same place where our problems and aspirations are
identified and rectified and solutions sought and implemented. Hence, Parliament
is considered the face of democracy and is often hailed as the temple of
democracy. It is also regarded as the epicentre of polity, politics and public
institutions as it is the legislative organ of the Union government.
In India, we have what is
called the bi-cameral system which consists of two Houses. The Upper House is the Council of
States (Rajya Sabha), and the Lower House is the House of the People (Lok Sabha).
Parliament of India consists of the President of India, Rajya Sabha and the Lok
Rajya Sabha consists of
250 members, indirectly elected. Out of 250 members, 12 members are nominated
by the President of India. Lok Sabha consists of not more than 552
representatives directly chosen by the people.
Generally, the Parliament
meets three times in a year for three sessions (apart from special sessions), and
Budget Session (split into two sessions)
held anytime between February-May
Monsoon Session held anytime between July
Winter Session held anytime between
November and December
of the Parliament:
There are many important
functions of the Parliament of India, and the most important among them are as
Functions of legislation,
surveillance of administration, presenting and passing of the budget, political
and financial control, law making, national integration, conflict resolution,
discussion of national policies, amending the Constitution, and identification
and solution of public grievances, etc.
Laws, Rights, Restrictions and Privileges:
The Preamble of the
Constitution of India along with Fundamental Rights is regarded as the ‘Basic Structure’
of the Indian Constitution (which cannot be amended) declares:
shall be granted and secured to all the people of India justice, social,
economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law;
freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association,
and action, subject to law and public morality; and…..(as qouted in Basu, 2015,
However, as Divan (2006),
has said in her book, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee of
the Constitution in one of the Constituent Assembly Debates had opined that the press was
merely another way of stating an individualU4
and those whose chose to write in the newspapers exercise their own right of
freedom of speech and expression which is already guaranteed to them and hence
the Press should not be given any extra rights other citizens do not
Hence, Constitution of
India has not given the Press any special rights. The press derives its right
to the Freedom of Speech and Expressions from Article 19(1) (a) of the
Fundamental Rights which is guaranteed to every citizen of the country. Article
19(1) (a) reads as follows: “19. (1)
All citizens shall have the right (a) to freedom of speech of expression;…..”
(as quoted in Divan, 2006, p.2).
Also, freedom of speech
and expression in India is not absolute and is subject to certain ‘reasonable
restrictions’ under Article 19 (2), though the word ‘reasonable’ has not been
exactly defined. Clause (2) of Article 19 i.e. 19 (2) which was amended in 1951
allows the legislature to impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ on freedom of speech
and expressions under certain grounds and interests. Restrictions to Article
19(1) (a) which is incorporated in Article 19(2) reads as:
in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law,
or prevent the state from making any law, insofar as such law imposes
reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the side
sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the
security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order,
decency and morality, or in relation contempt of court, defamation, or
incitement to an offence. (as quoted in Basu, 2015, p.111).
Nonetheless, it is not
legitimate on the part of the state to narrow the scale and scope of
circulation and dissemination of information and to impose laws or huge taxes
to indirectly curtail information. The freedom of speech and expression also includes
the liberty and the right to collect and/or receive information, to print,
publish, broadcast, circulate, etc., through any means of communication, right
to express beyond national boundaries, right to report court proceedings and
legislative sessions. To put it in a simple way, the press has the right to
assimilation and dissemination of news, views, and information through any
means of communication.
The Supreme Court of
India in multiple cases like Sakal Papers v/s Union of India, Brij Bhushan v/s
State of Delhi, Bennett Coleman & Co v/s Union of India, Indian Express v/s
Union of India, LIC v/s Manubhai Shah, etc. cases time
and again has clearly hailed the facets of free speech and expressions.
Also Articles 14, 19 and
21 are popularly called as ‘Golden Triangle’ of the Constitution. These
judgements privilege the press to have more access to information and hence, in
a certain sense, it has more rights than the common folk. The enormous power
the press possesses is in itself a very big responsivity, obligation and an
and the Press:
Press is often regarded
as the fourth estate, along with the legislature, executive, and judiciary,
which has significant influence on society. The term ‘Fourth Estate’ is
attributed to the great Irish political theorist, statesman and philosopher
Edmund Burke. He is said to have coined
the term the ‘Fourth Estate’ when he saw the press sitting in the galleries in
the British Parliament for the first time watching the three estates, the
Kings, Clergies and the Commons.
The Fourth Estate also
refers to the watchdog function of the press which checks the abuse of power
and to hold the ‘power to account’. Hence, press is one of the most important
pillars of democracy. In India, press is considered as the Fourth Estate along
with legislature, executive and judiciary.
Government and the people
communicate with each other through the media, especially through press. Press
plays two important roles, one as ‘information industry’ and the second one as
‘opinion formulator’. Hence, press must be highly responsible to stay effective
and reliable. The educative and dissemination of information role of the press
helps in exposing and identifying the weaknesses of democracy. This helps in
rectifying the problems and making democracy more robust and pro-people. It is
extremely vital for any democracy to keep the general public informed how and
why Parliament functions. However, the procedures and practices of Parliament
are a bit too complicated for a common man to understand and comprehend.
Population penetration of
newspapers is generally very high compared to other forms of media and hence
the electorate of the country reads what happens in Parliament mainly through
newspapers. According to the website of the Parliament of India, “Press is
often regarded as the extension of the Parliament”. Much of the raw materials
for asking questions, debates, motions, in Parliament comes from the press. Parliamentarians
rely on the reports, news, views of the press. At the same time, the press
disseminates information regarding Parliament and functions and procedures of Parliament
by informing the people about it (Kashyap, 2015). These two-way, mutually
complimentary, mutually beneficial factors helps to connect Parliament and the
people of the country. Hence, press is the bridge between the people and Parliament.
Press enjoys certain
privileges in Parliament while reporting on it business. These privileges,
freedom and rights of the press in Parliament come along with certain
obligations and responsibilities. The website of the Parliament of India
clearly states that “There can be no freedom of the Press at the cost of
privileges of Parliament”.
Parliament has the power
to impose restrictions on reporting from both the houses of Parliament iftheir
proceedings are reported or being written with mala fide intentions and/or if
the interpretations or writings or reports are grossly misinterpreted and
anything taken out of context and written about.
Also, the press is supposed U5 to
publish matters that are before the parliamentary committees which have not
been tabled in the houses. Press will be kept out of the houses in-case there
is a secret sitting of the houses and the press shall not disclose the information
until and unless the secrecy is lifted.
of Press in Parliament:
In order to facilitate
the press in Parliament the ‘Press and Public Relations Wing,’ a unit under
Parliament ‘Library And Reference, Research, Documentation and Information
Service’ (LARRDIS) was formed in 1956. They work closely both with the
parliamentarians and the press. LARRDIS collects all the important news and
information from 9 Hindi and 18 English newspapers and documents it
chronologically, subject wise. This information is extensively used by the
parliamentarians. Apart from documentation and research work, LARRDIS
facilitates the press to cover the day-to-day proceedings of both the houses of
Parliament. LARRDIS is also the bridge between various other parliamentary
organizations, associations, committees and the press. They also inform the
press regarding other activities of the Parliament.
There are three rooms
allotted for the press during parliamentary sessions. Fax, photo copy and
internet facilities are given for the media personnel free of cost. There also
is a separate station in the library building of the Lok Sabha for the press
personnel with ten computer and internet and phone connection facilities to
file their stories. The simultaneous interpretation facility of the sessions is
also available for the media personnel.
The press gallery in the
Lok Sabha has 120 seats. A committee called The Press Advisory, which has 21
members from the press fraternity, nominated by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha,
attends to the concerns of the press in Parliament.
of the Parliament and Parliamentarians:
Journalists should be
very careful in reporting on Parliament as the parliamentarians have certain
privileges which are sensitive. While reporting, press might consciously or unconsciously go beyond
their rights and intrude into their privileges which often leads to tussles
between the privileges of the parliamentarians and the press. The right to
freedom of speech and expression is brought into picture here which makes the
Article 105 and 194 of
the Constitution deals with the privileges and powers of the parliamentarians
and Parliament. These privileges, powers and immunities are given to the
parliamentarians to enable them to perform their duty effectively.
There are two kinds of
privileges enjoyed by the parliamentarians, individual and collective
privileges. Collective privileges of the parliamentarians are worth mentioning
under the present dissertation topic, they are:
Privileges of the House collectively
are- (1) The right to publish debates and the proceedings and the right to
restrain publication by others; (2) The right to exclude others; (3) The right
to regulate the internal affairs of the House, and to decide matters arising
within its walls; (4) The right to publish Parliamentary misbehaviour; (5) The
right to punish members and outsiders for breach of its privileges. ( As cited
in Basu, 2015, p.237).
The above law clearly
states that the parliamentarians have the right to restrain the publication of
proceedings by others which also includes journalists, the right to exclude
others and others here include journalists, and to punish outsiders for the
breach of their privileges. Journalists reporting Parliament must keep these
issues in mind and then report. Parliament reporting needs expertise with
sufficient legal knowledge of the general law and of parliamentary laws and
don’t you do this right from the start?
or not supposed?